Chocolate-Drizzled Peanut Butter Cookies

Hi Everyone!

First of all, I’d like to wish a very Happy Father’s Day to all of the great dads out there…but especially to mine, who-in my humble opinion-is the world’s greatest. I’m not sure if he knows this, but I feel extremely fortunate that I can say that my dad has had a major influence in my love of living a healthy, active lifestyle.

From the moment I could walk, I was running and signed up for sports. I, along with all of my siblings, grew up playing year-round sports and always being pushed to be the best we could be from our dad, who was a naturally strong and great athlete himself. And I don’t mean he pushed us from afar, like hearing about our games over dinner because he wasn’t there…I mean in the moment and in all of the moments leading up to the games my dad was (and still is) always there. He would spend his days off taking us to sports academies and camps, traveling leagues, and practicing drills with us in the backyard or at a nearby field. He would make sure to be at every single game of ours, even if it meant coming straight from work and showing up in his uniform. My dad was always there in my peripherals: when I was up at bat, on the field, or on the court-to shake his head slightly frustrated if he knew we could do better/weren’t trying our best, to give some constructive advice after a tough moment, to give a roar/hoot/holler from the stands that exuded pure pride and love, and sometimes even to drag us to the hospital for x-rays or MRI’s, when we inevitably injured ourselves…and then to console our defeated, tearful selves afterwards when we realized our season was over and we needed surgery. No matter what the situation, my dad was always there to hug us afterwards, look us in the eye, and tell us that he loved us…every single time.

And even though I don’t live in New Jersey with my parents anymore and my current active lifestyle is a very different kind from what it once was (now mainly running and yoga), I know my dad is still just as proud and tries to stay as involved in and as up to date in my healthy, active lifestyle as possible. Although I selfishly wish that I could see him in my peripherals during every road race I run, I know he’s thinking of me during the race and makes sure to check in with encouraging texts and phone calls. He might not even fully understand the whole blogging/social media concept, but he’s one of my most loyal and supportive Meg in the Meantime followers, too! How lucky am I to have him?! So thanks, Dad for caring enough to always be there.

And so, here’s to you dad: the greatest man I know and a fellow peanut butter lover. I want to dedicate today’s Sunday Snacks edition to something that he would enjoy eating–lucky for me, I am home in New Jersey this weekend with my family and so my dad can actually test them out, instead of just commenting about how good my healthy snacks look. Per usual, I trolled Pinterest for some healthy peanut butter desserts and came across a peanut butter cookie recipe from Myra of The Happy Healthy Freak. With a healthy dark chocolate, coconut oil drizzle on top, I knew right away that these small, sweet, and healthy treats would be the way to go for Father’s Day.

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These cookies are made from only five ingredients, are low in sugar, low in carbs, and takes less than a half hour to make (about 10-15 minutes of prep time and about 15 minutes of baking time). This particular recipe will yield 20-24 cookies, depending on how large you want to them, but I believe the whole purpose to to keep them on the smaller, bite-size end.

According to my dad, they’re a little too delicious to be healthy. He said (and I quote): “Are you sure these are healthy?? They seem too good to be healthy…” Haha! So since these cookies are impressively “Dad-tested, Dad-approved” (trust me, he’s not easily impressed) let’s get straight to how to make them so you and your loved ones can enjoy, as well!

Chocolate-Drizzled Peanut Butter Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (I used the kind with honey in mine for extra sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup organic sweetener (I used Stevia, but there are many different kinds)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tbsp. virgin coconut oil

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Other Items Needed:

  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • whisk or electric beater
  • baking sheet
  • fork

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine peanut butter, sweetener, and egg in a bowl-mix together well.
  3. Roll the mixture together into 1 inch balls (or a little smaller)-place on baking sheet.
  4. Press down on rolled balls with a fork.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes (but check at 12-13 minutes, if you rolled smaller balls).
  6. While cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil together in the microwave.
  7. Once cookies are cooled, drizzle the chocolate mix on top.
  8. Let the chocolate drizzle harden* and enjoy!

*You can place the cookies in the refrigerator to serve chilled and really harden up the chocolate, or keep the cookies softer, warmer, and gooier and keep out in room temperature.

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Besides inspiring my love of peanut butter, my dad inspires me to forever strive for greatness; to respect and appreciate the pride that comes after a long, hard days work; to always keep challenging myself and to never stop until my “good” is better than my “best” in all aspects of my life…and I’m so grateful to have that kind of mindset in my adult life. What about you? Think about what your dad (or some kind of father-figure) has inspired you to do/become today. Was your dad your number one fan growing up? What special traditions did you have together growing up-something that maybe is meant for just you and him? What’s some of your favorite memories? Make sure to give him a call and tell him or, if you’re lucky enough to live nearby, go visit and tell him in-person.

In the meantime, if your dad is a peanut butter fan like mine is, bake these cookies for him and enjoy a special conversation over a healthy snack together. And don’t forget-look him in the eye and tell him you love him, too!

Happy Sunday,
-Meg

Healthy Enough for Breakfast, Sweet Enough for Dessert!

Hello There!

I don’t know about you, but I can almost never turn down dessert…especially if it’s ice cream, or some kind of frozen treat. So now that we’re moving into the hot summer months, I want to share with you a cool, healthy snack alternative that complements most sweet tooth desires: Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pops. Yes-almost all of the ingredients are listed right there in its title and yes-they are as perfectly balanced and delicious as they sound.

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I originally found the Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pops recipe from Danae on her healthy recipe blog, Recipe Runnerafter trolling Pinterest for healthy summer snacks. Right away the title caught my eye (all of my favorite things in one popsicle?!) and knew that it would be perfect for this week’s Sunday Snacks edition-it’s quick and easy to make, healthy and wholesome, and something cool and refreshing for any “Sunday Funday” you might have this summer!

Prep time for this recipe is only 10 minutes so you can make them (without stress) when you get home from work and-in three easy steps-this sweet and delicious treat will be ready for you before bed or after your morning miles as something to cool yourself off with (in lieu of a smoothie)! This particular recipe yields 8 popsicles, so feel free to double your ingredients if you are making them for a larger gathering or summer party.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pop Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/2 – 2 large bananas
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

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Other Items Needed:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Popsicle molds (the ones I used are from Bed, Bath. & Beyond, but you can use any mold with wooden popsicle sticks, too)
  • Blender (or some other variation: Ninja, NutriBullet, etc.)

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Instructions:

  1. Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until mixture is smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into the popsicle mold and place the sticks/holder in place. If you are using traditional wooden popsicle sticks, freeze the pops for about 30 minutes before placing the stick in so it stands up straight).
  3. Freeze the popsicles for about 4 hours, or until frozen. Enjoy!!

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Now all you have to do is get out there, grab a friend or two, move with intention and get your sweat on, and come home to this refreshingly, cool treat to snack on…you more than earned it!

On a separate note, have you ever read through my “Current Goals” section?  If not, please check it out and make sure to tune back in tomorrow for a special post-I want to share some exciting news with you about my training! In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you-what are some of YOUR current health, wellness, and fitness goals? As I continue to  accomplish more and add new challenges to my list, I’m curious about what you all are striving for. If you are willing, share some of your big and bold or small and hard goals below in the comment section to inspire me and others or tweet at me: @meggielukes (with the hashtag #MegInTheMeantime for good measure). Can’t wait to hear from you!

Happy Sunday to you all,
-Meg

From quin-what?! to quin-whoa!!

Wake up, friends! Don’t let the rainy, dreary weather keep you in bed too long this morning.

I’m going to get right to it today. Many of you have probably heard of quinoa and its plethora of health benefits: rich in diverse array of antioxidants, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, valuable about of heart-healthy fats, and so on…the benefits, to me, seemed pretty similar to the “super food” chia seeds that I wrote about in my PB&J smoothie recipe. Well, just like chia seeds, I was intimated to try to incorporate something new into my diet, but knew that eventually I should.

And so, while browsing healthy dessert alternatives the other day I stumbled across a recipe by Blissful Basil blogger, Ashley, that seemed too awesome to be true: Quinoa Peanut Butter Crunch Cups. Peanut butter cups are one of my all-time favorite candies so I figured-even though there is no chocolate involved in the recipe (it is a healthy alternative, after all)-this would be the safest, and probably most delicious, route to testing out quinoa.

Some things to note: prep time for this recipe is much longer than the usual ones I give you in my Sunday Snacks series…well, depending on if you have pre-puffed quinoa or not; that is the part that took me the longest, especially because I was new to working with quinoa. If you are puffing your own quinoa (don’t be intimidated by the sound of that…remember, if I can do it, so can you!) then I’ve included instructions below. If this is the case, then consider prep and cook time to be about an hour. If you have already-puffed quinoa then take out about 30 minutes out of the overall time. Once the quinoa-peanut butter mixture is complete, the cups will have to set in the freezer for about an hour before they can be consumed.

Despite its longer prep time, the reason I still am including this recipe is that it’s still very simple to follow (just six steps!), there’s no baking involved, and I really appreciate it as a creative alternative to one of the most beloved candies: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The only other downside to this recipe is that it includes things like coconut oil and coconut butter and, if you’re like me, you’re not one to have these things lying around your kitchen so you will have to pop over to a place like Whole Foods and pick those up. However, I must say, now that I have worked with coconut oil as a healthy alternative I think I’ll use it more while cooking–so that’s another bonus from working with this recipe. But, I digress…

The recipe will yield 16 peanut butter cups, which is a great amount to save a handful for yourself and bring the rest in to share with co-workers, friends, and family! I envision these peanut butter cups as a nice mid-morning snack when you’re craving sweets or need a little pick me up or as a great fueling source pre and post-workout. So, without further ado, here are the ingredients and instructions to make your very own peanut butter crunch cups:

Quinoa Peanut Butter Crunch Cup Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups puffed quinoa*
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. peanut butter (you can also substitute in almond butter, if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. coconut butter
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup (the recipe calls for pure maple syrup, but I used the “fake stuff” because that’s what I like-feel free to improvise, as well)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

*You apparently can buy puffed quinoa in the store (most likely in a place like Whole Foods), however I had trouble finding it so my instructions will include how to “puff” regular quinoa. Note: if I can do this, so can you-this was my first time ever working with quinoa and I think I did alright!

Other Items Needed:

  • cupcake/muffin liners
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mixing bowl
  • whisk
  • pots
  • tray

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Instructions:

  1. “Puff” your quinoa: use a little coconut oil in a pot on medium heat and pour in a small amount of quinoa at a time-enough to line the base of the pot. Gently stir the quinoa around the pan (to avoid burning) and wait for them to “pop”- this should take a couple of minutes. I had no idea what I was doing during this part of the instructions and was honestly just hoping for the best, so my advice to you is to trust yourself-the site and smell will remind you of popping popcorn. The size of the quinoa won’t be drastically different, but you’ll be able to tell that they’ve popped a bit. Be careful because some can pop right out of the pot and burn you! Once the quinoa is puffed, pour it into a mixing bowl and repeat with the rest, little by little, until you have puffed and popped 1 & 1/2 cups of quinoa.
  2. One your quinoa is puffed and in a mixing bowl move on to the other ingredients. In another pot, mix together your peanut butter, coconut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Keep the heat low and whisk continuously until the ingredients are melted and smooth (it took me 1.5-2 minutes).
  3. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the puffed quinoa in the mixing bowl and stir until fully and evenly coated.
  4. Place your cupcake/muffin liners on a tray or baking sheet. Scoop 2 tbsp. of the mixture into each liner and smooth out evenly with a spoon.
  5. Pop the tray into the freezer for an hour to set.
  6. Once the cups have set, move to the refrigerator to store until you are ready to induldge!

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I found that these peanut butter cups are definitely crunchy and delicious: your taste buds will be overwhelmed with the peanut butter taste at first and then as you continue to chew, the more plain quinoa flavor slowly takes over-and so that will continue for every bite you take to consume the cup. I think I’m still just getting used to the overall quinoa flavor and texture and I realize that many of you, might be as well. That being said, I’d like to find a way to incorporate these peanut butter cups into something else as to ease our way into loving quinoa. Perhaps we can dip these cups into a Greek yogurt, drizzle a little chocolate on top (the dark kind, to keep it healthy), or even throw them a few cups into a smoothie that needs some peanut butter and crunch!

Can you think of other ways to utilize these peanut butter crunch cups in your snacks? I’d love to hear your thoughts: leave me a comment below, e-mail me at melucas7@gmail.com, or tag me on Twitter: @meggielukes and include #MegInTheMeantime. Then, be sure to check back later this week for more wellness tips.

Oh, I should mention: next week I leave for China for a business trip for a week….I know, casual right?! I’m pretty stoked for this trip and can’t wait to share some of my cool experiences with you but, this also means that some of my posts may be a little late or shorter than usual. I would never leave you hanging and don’t intend to put Meg in the Meantime on hold while traveling, so it will be be a great testament to still being able to incorporate a healthy lifestyle and workout regiments while on the road. I also start training for the B.A.A. 10k this week so, for the next eight weeks, you can follow me on a fitness journey that will hopefully result in a PR, one of my “Current Goals” listed on my homepage–this will be a great series to follow if you are thinking of training for a race of any length!

In the meantime, I’m off to tackle my first training run (after I actively stretch first, of course)-it’s nothing too long or crazy, just a 3 miler, but I think it will be a great starting point. Starting points don’t have to be drastic or too scary, they just have to be somewhere semi-comfortable to begin and give you enough space to be able to move forward to where you want to be in your projected time frame. For me, starting with a 3 miler allows for me to have a few weeks of consistent 4 and 5 milers, and even allows for me to push into the 6-6.5 mile zone, before the actual race day-which is enough for me to feel comfortable and confident to tackle shaving off some time. That’s the plan, at least! I will definitely make sure to share my training schedule with you this week so you can see where I’m at and offer any advice you may have if you’ve recently attempted something similar.

Talk with you soon,
-Meg